Christmas: a response to the desires of the human heart

By: Caitlin Forst, Office of Communications

As Christmas is approaching we are all, no doubt, putting our finishing touches on gifts, grocery shopping and holiday plans. Churches are preparing decorations for their parishes, musicians are practicing Christmas hymns and we are preparing our hearts for the Lord’s Nativity.

Bishop Loverde celebrates Christmas Mass at the National Shrine.

Bishop Loverde will be celebrating a Vigil Mass on Christmas Eve at the Cathedral of Saint Thomas More, Arlington, and a Mass for Christmas morning at Saint Anthony of Padua, Falls Church. Later in the day, he will bless and serve the more than 50 people who will arrive for their Christmas meal at Christ House, Alexandria.

Amidst our busy Christmas plans, Bishop Loverde reminds us in his Christmas letter about the deepest desires of our hearts:

“There is a deep longing in the human heart for enduring love, and because God is Love (cf. I Jn 4:8), this deep desire is really a longing for God.  Indeed, God alone can fulfill this yearning, for He created within us this innermost longing for Him.

“One word captures how God fulfills this deep hunger in the human heart: ‘Emmanuel,’ which means ‘God is with us.’  Because He loves us so infinitely, God has journeyed to us.  Our Holy Father expresses this so beautifully, ‘Yes indeed, God has set out towards us. Left to ourselves we could not reach him. The path is too much for our strength. But God has come down. He comes towards us. He has travelled the longer part of the journey. Now he invites us: come and see how much I love you. Come and see that I am here’ (Homily at Midnight Mass, 2009).”

Read the entire Christmas letter here.

One thought on “Christmas: a response to the desires of the human heart

  1. In this era of science, technology, and the practice of precise and directed medicine, it can seem that everything once held sacred about humanity, especially that of the Human Soul is gradually being widdled away by reductionist materialism. Even existentially oriented scholars of the human psyche such as psychologists and sociologists and definately psychiatrists can seem hell bent in denying the existence of a spiritual immortal soul.

    We long for a sense of the spiritual and transcendence regarding our self image and to more fully esteem our fellow human persons. Part of the associated loss of the sense of a spiritual and immortal soul that survives bodily death is lived out in a form of juvenile attractions to movie action heroes, supernatural superheroes with bogus powers such as telekinesis, and the like forms of immature hero worship.

    Thus, many adult persons have become obsessed with the prowess of the human body and do no longer recognize the far greater power of a Human Person to respond to GOD’s grace and to be healed from mortal and venial sin in the Sacrament of Penance. The ability for the Human Person to make free acts of will to except the life of grace is qualitatively far more profound then any trivial telekinetic powers, clairvoyance skills, or telepathic abilities.

    We are gradually becomming a society that is absolutely obsessed with bodily conditioning, physical prowess, and althleticism to the point that many simply do not care about the soul or the state and fate of their souls. Rest assure, there are many fully alive and sadly suffering souls in purgatory who may be wondering why their loved ones on Earth do not pray for their release into the beautitude of Heaven.

    Now the reader of this post may wonder why I put so much emphasis on the Human Soul and may as a result might think I am unbalanced. To tell the truth, I do not disrespect the physical world as I am a physicist whose main scientific interest lies in applied theoretical physics. I have the makings of about 10 technical textbooks in the works on the subject of proposed methods of interstellar and intergalactic manned space travel, and also have 9 U.S. Patents. I have come up with lots of other inventive concepts but as I am short of cash at this point, I am unable to build prototypes or file patent applications for the inventive subject matter due to the financial costs of the latter. However, I have over the previous few years discerned at least an advocation to promote the dignity of the Human Soul and to help those wanting a sense of the spiritual regarding their human nature and of those they love to have a renewed appreciation for the human soul. In fact, we do a diss-respectfulll diss-service when we deny the existence of a spiritual and immortal soul and by corollary, implicitly deny the significance and greatness of the created spiritual and immortal soul of Our Ressurected and Glorified Lord Jesus.

    Nonetheless, I recognize that the Human Soul is at times philosophical and theological enigma, even for the Catholic Church.

    On the one hand, according to the Scholastic Theology of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the following is held true regarding the Human Soul.

    Also, once again, note the Scholastic interpretation as promulgated by Saint Aquinas of the nature of the human soul, that is the human soul is: 1) Spiritual, 2) Naturally immortal, 3) Incorruptible per addends and per se, 4) Simple, 5) Un-extended, 6) Without shape or size, 7) Non-material, 8] Non-corporeal, 9) Rational, 10) Free, 11) A first created principle, 12) An essence or a being which exist per se, 13) Independent of the body for its existence and to some extent its operations in this life, 14) The substantial form of the body in the Ancient Greek philosophical sense of the word, 15) Directly created by God, 16) Immediately created by God, and if I am not mistaken, 17) Multiple meaning that it is completely and totally present and united to every portion of the human body that is alive.

    The Catholic Church’s Tradition which is rich with Encyclicals regarding human nature and its fundamental dignity holds that the each Human Soul is the vital or life principle that constitutes each individual human person as a unique and unrepeatable individual, and as such is the fundamental principle of unity, individuality, and identity in each human person.

    Even in the contemporary Catholic Church, the following statements have been given Church approval and come from the new Catechism Of The Catholic Church.

    From the new Catechism of the Catholic Church, we can know the following.

    Part 1, Section 1, Chapter 1, SubSection 2

    33 The human person: with his openness to truth and beauty, his sense of moral goodness, his freedom and the voice of his conscience, with his longings for the infinite and for happiness, man questions himself about God’s existence. In all this he discerns signs of his spiritual soul. The soul, the “seed of eternity we bear in ourselves, irreducible to the merely material”, 9 can have its origin only in God.

    Part 1, Section 2, Chapter 1, Article 1, Paragraph 6, SubSection 1

    360 Because of its common origin the human race forms a unity, for “from one ancestor [God] made all nations to inhabit the whole earth”: 226

    O wondrous vision, which makes us contemplate the human race in the unity of its origin in God. . . in the unity of its nature, composed equally in all men of a material body and a spiritual soul; in the unity of its immediate end and its mission in the world; in the unity of its dwelling, the earth, whose benefits all men, by right of nature, may use to sustain and develop life; in the unity of its supernatural end: God himself, to whom all ought to tend; in the unity of the means for attaining this end;. . . in the unity of the redemption wrought by Christ for all. 227.

    Part 1, Section 2, Chapter 1, Article 1, Paragraph 6, SubSection 2

    363 In Sacred Scripture the term “soul” often refers to human life or the entire human person. 230 But “soul” also refers to the innermost aspect of man, that which is of greatest value in him, 231 that by which he is most especially in God’s image: “soul” signifies the spiritual principle in man.

    Part 1, Section 2, Chapter 1, Article 1, Paragraph 6, SubSection 2

    366 The Church teaches that every spiritual soul is created immediately by God – it is not “produced” by the parents – and also that it is immortal: it does not perish when it separates from the body at death, and it will be reunited with the body at the final Resurrection. 235

    Part 1, Section 2, Chapter 1, Article 1, Paragraph 6, SubSection 2

    367 Sometimes the soul is distinguished from the spirit: St. Paul for instance prays that God may sanctify his people “wholly”, with “spirit and soul and body” kept sound and blameless at the Lord’s coming. 236 The Church teaches that this distinction does not introduce a duality into the soul. 237 “Spirit” signifies that from creation man is ordered to a supernatural end and that his soul can gratuitously be raised beyond all it deserves to communion with God. 238.

    Part 1, Section 2, Chapter 1, Article 1, Paragraph 6, SubSection 4

    382 “Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity” (GS 14 # 1). The doctrine of the faith affirms that the spiritual and immortal soul is created immediately by God.

    Part 1, Section 2, Chapter 3, Article 11, SubSection 1, Heading 2

    997 What is “rising”? In death, the separation of the soul from the body, the human body decays and the soul goes to meet God, while awaiting its reunion with its glorified body. God, in his almighty power, will definitively grant incorruptible life to our bodies by reuniting them with our souls, through the power of Jesus’ Resurrection.

    Part 1, Section 2, Chapter 3, Article 12, SubSection 6
    1052 “We believe that the souls of all who die in Christ’s grace . . . are the People of God beyond death. On the day of resurrection, death will be definitively conquered, when these souls will be reunited with their bodies” (Paul VI, CPG § 28].

    Part 2, Section 2, Chapter 1, Article 1, SubSection 7, Heading 5

    1280 Baptism imprints on the soul an indelible spiritual sign, the character, which consecrates the baptized person for Christian worship. Because of the character Baptism cannot be repeated (cf. DS 1609 and DS 1624).

    Part 2, Section 2, Chapter 1, Article 2, SubSection 3

    1304 Like Baptism which it completes, Confirmation is given only once, for it too imprints on the soul an indelible spiritual mark, the “character,” which is the sign that Jesus Christ has marked a Christian with the seal of his Spirit by clothing him with power from on high so that he may be his witness. 121

    Part 3, Section 1, Chapter 1, Article 1

    1705 By virtue of his soul and his spiritual powers of intellect and will, man is endowed with freedom, an “outstanding manifestation of the divine image.” 8

    Part 3, Section 1, Chapter 1, Article 1

    1711 Endowed with a spiritual soul, with intellect and with free will, the human person is from his very conception ordered to God and destined for eternal beatitude. He pursues his perfection in “seeking and loving what is true and good” (GS 15 § 2).

    Part 3, Section 1, Chapter 2, Article 3, SubSection 2

    1934 Created in the image of the one God and equally endowed with rational souls, all men have the same nature and the same origin. Redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ, all are called to participate in the same divine beatitude: all therefore enjoy an equal dignity.

    Yet theologians and spiritual psychologists and anthropologists wrestle with trying to prove the immortality of the Human Soul by nature and even seem to struggle with attempts to prove the immortality of the Human Soul from reason alone. The struggle is made all the more intense by the findings of modern neuropsychology, neurology, psychiatry, bio-sociology, and the like. Modern real time brain scanning has compounded this reality by showing an overwhelming correlation of brain activity with various mental, emotional, and perceptual tasks.

    The way I see it, just about everyone is searching for a renewed sense of the trancendent and sacred regarding the Human Person. This longing to have meaning can be channeled into a productive and practical love of all of our fellow Human Persons and a joyfull anticipation of our eternital destiny to become full citizens in the Kingdom of Heaven at the sun-set of our lives here on Earth.

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